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Legalize it? Integral will. 2010-Oct-01 at 08:29 PDT

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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Bill Piper is the Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.

From Sooner or later, marijuana will be legal, by Bill Piper, 28-Sep-2010:

Even though police made more than 850,000 marijuana arrests last year, a recent government report shows youth marijuana use increased by about 9 percent.

Supporters of the failed war on drugs will no doubt argue this increase means policymakers should spend more taxpayer money next year arresting and incarcerating a greater number of Americans. In other words, their solution to failure is to do more of the same. Fortunately, the "reform nothing" club is getting mighty lonely these days — 76 percent of Americans recognize the drug war has failed; millions are demanding change.

In the almost 40 years since President Nixon declared a war on drugs, tens of millions of Americans have been arrested and hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent. Yet drugs are just as available now as they were then.

The racial disparities are appalling. As Michelle Alexander so eloquently shows in her new book, "The New Jim Crow," a drug conviction automatically makes a person a second-class citizen who can be legally discriminated against in housing and employment, denied school loans, and barred for life from serving on juries, accessing public benefits and even voting. While African Americans make up only about 13 percent of the U.S. population and about 15 percent of drug users, they make up about 38 percent of those arrested for drug law violations and a mind-boggling 59 percent of those convicted for drug law violations.

Even if Proposition 19 loses, it will only be temporary. Support for marijuana legalization is growing, and not just in California. Legalization will happen. It’s just a question of how many lives and tax dollars will be wasted before it does. Some vested interests, of course, will fight change until the bitter end. Progress has never been accepted by everyone.

The Boomers failed to get this job done, but the Integral movement will.  The financial, social, and criminal costs involved, and the obvious failures in this "war", are too great a contradiction to be ignored for much longer.

An Integral perspective allows us to consider the difference between substances that are entheogens (like marijuana, MDMA, LSD, ayahuasca, and mushrooms)  and those that are not (like cocaine and alcohol) and to view the use of those substances with more discernment than previous generations have been able to summon.  We’ll bring research and an understanding of these substances, from all quadrants, into crafting new policies that welcome those who wish to explore different aspects of consciousness through these lenses, and yet still prevent behaviors that impact society negatively.

By the way, the word "entheogen" means "God inside us".  Is that clear enough?

You should be able to trip, but you shouldn’t be allowed to drive when you do.  After all, stop signs can have a funny way of remaining the same distance away no matter how close you get to them….



1. Scott Arbeit - 2010-Oct-01 at 15:37 PDT

There’s a discussion going on over on Facebook between a couple of friends around good parenting vs. marijuana simply being an evil… and I wrote a long comment back to that discussion that I’ll share here….

Well… first of all, I don’t have kids, and I don’t want any, so I don’t care about the parenting angle. Yay for conscious parenting, though… and Stephen, I agree with everything you’ve said about it. I’d add that, at some point, all of the skill you muster as a father also meshes with the path of your children, who are independent human beings who make their own choices. Giving them the space to be children, to use their imagination in an environment of safety, and to allow them to grow a sense of empathy for the beings around them, is about all you can do. And once they’re 13… they’re pretty much doing their own thing anyway. :-)

Second of all, Archie, you’re making assumptions about the use of marijuana that simply aren’t warranted… and I’ve used it off and on for 25 years, so I’m speaking not from outside observation or something I read from a position paper, but I’m speaking from personal experience… and I haven’t gotten dumb since we’ve last spoken. :-) The myth of marijuana being a gateway drug is just that, a myth. Really, I promise… it’s a myth. The people who try other drugs would have anyway, and the vast majority of people I’ve known over those 25 years who used marijuana have never used any other illegal drug, and don’t want to.

Two major points about that: first, while marijuana (and its active ingredient, THC) are not physically addictive, I know a few people who have become psychologically addicted to it. I also know lots of people who have become addicted to other things, like alcohol and cigarettes. Our personalities each have greater or lesser susceptibility to addiction (I’m addicted to chocolate, and probably caffeine)… I’m fortunate that I really have a very low susceptibility to that, because I have used other drugs in my past that some other people I know became addicted to.

Second, as I mentioned in my blog, one must separate entheogens from other substances. In other words, it’s helpful — even necessary — to take the perspective (as Integral philosophy does) that mystical state experiences are both valid and helpful, and that there are multiple ways to have those state experiences. Meditation is, by far, the most popular and helpful way to do that. Yoga, dance, chant, even sex are all useful to access these kinds of mystical state experiences. Additionally, entheogens are useful for attaining these kinds of experiences, and can be very helpful as a part of one’s spiritual path. The problem comes when they’re the entirety of one’s path, and I know a few people like that, too. For more on this topic, I highly recommend Jay Michaelson’s essay at http://www.realitysandwich.com/meditation_and_drugs. Again, alcohol and cigarettes are not entheogens, but they’re legal… it’s just a shame, and part of a cultural heritage that demonizes anything that opens up consciousness to later stages, but welcomes many things that dull consciousness.

Beyond all of that, though, there’s a simple, undeniable social, cultural, and economic reality: the War on Drugs has failed completely, and I’m also very much pointing to that (as is the author of this column). The use of drugs continues to grow, we’ve spent far too much money on enforcement and prisons, put far too many people in jail, and created far too much misery in people’s lives over it. Everything that’s going on in Mexico right now is related to American’s continued desire for these particular substances. People have criminal records and are denied employment over smoking a joint, which tens of millions of Americans do anyway. This is about just admitting what’s true… not about what a minority of American wish were true, from just their perspective, but what’s actually true, and what a majority of Americans actually support. The War on Drugs has utterly failed to accomplish its goals. It’s been a “third rail” politically forever, but the next generation of leaders after the Baby Boomers, those who will be familiar in one way or another with an Integral perspective, will take the necessary action to shift this destructive policy.

While I personally favor the complete decriminalization of all drugs, and a shift to treating addiction medically and therapeutically rather than treating it through the criminal justice system, I’m open to doing that in steps, where we start with marijuana, realize that the sky doesn’t fall when we do that, and then move on from there. It’ll take a couple of decades, but we will get there.

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